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What Luther Says

What Are Confessional Lutherans Up Against These Days?

What are Confessional Lutherans up against these days?

What are Confessional Lutheran churches up against these days?

For the faithful few that still exist, the challenges are mind-numbing to say the least.

Church Growth: Deliberately Misdiagnosing The Problem? 
"Unfortunately, it seems to be a zero sum game. The growth and wealth has come at the expense of bleeding out established churches. If fact, the “solution” churches are factories for minting generations of new unbelievers who have not one clue why it was necessary for Jesus the Christ to be born, live a perfect live, die on a cross, be resurrected, and ascend to Heaven. The problem with church is not a lack of innovation and cultural alignment. The problem is too many fools in the pulpit and a multitude of pagans in the pews. There is a famine of the Word such as the shepherd-prophet Amos reported in his terrifying book. We are fond of thinking about God’s judgments in terms of natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis, but what could be worse than an absence of His Word? Analogous to the Ancient Mariner crying out, 'Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink', we have tens of thousands of churches, but fewer and fewer of them offer salvation by grace alone through faith alone. We’ve never had so many Bibles in so many languages in circulation, and yet the men equipped to rightly divide the Word in them is inversely proportional. This is what innovation in the name of God has brought about. We are witnessing Christianity in exile from the Word."

Jesus' Church Doesn't "Suck." Period. 
"Jesus builds His Church through the proclamation of repentance and the forgiveness of sins upon the confession that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God sent by the Father to rescue you from your own suckiness. He has cried over you. He has sweat drops of blood realizing the burden of sin He must bear for you. And He has poured out His lifeblood to save you. If the Holy Spirit is calling and gathering you with others to hear about this Jesus who suffered, died and rose again FOR YOU; If you are gathering with other baptized believers to hear God’s Word read and proclaimed; If Jesus’ body and blood are given and received for the forgiveness of your sins when you gather together in His Name, then you are likely in Jesus’ Church. And Jesus Church doesn’t suck. Period. Many or few, rich or poor, it doesn’t matter. Whether you gather with people who have great stories of deliverance from addiction or prostitution or anger or lust and everyone can see God’s power of deliverance or you gather in a tiny congregation in which everyone was baptized as an infant and God has kept and preserved all of you from falling into grievous sin by the power of His Holy Spirit, it doesn’t matter. If you are hearing the Word of God from the Scriptures and the Sacraments are being administered properly, you are in Jesus’ Church. And Jesus Church doesn’t suck. Period."

Issues, Etc.: Pastor Jonathan Fisk Discusses A New Barna Report on "The Churchless"

Market-Style Evangelism Is Enthusiasm 
"The problem with market-style evangelism is that they tend to shift the focus toward 'ministry' often at the expense of actually preaching the gospel. I have heard too many sermons where the emphases are on going out and spreading the gospel without actually preaching the gospel to the people gathered to hear it. The articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae, instead of remaining the central emphasis, is at best a preface to what we are really here for: making disciples. With the enthusiastic doctrine of 'everyone a minister,' they replace the central message of justification for Christ’s sake through faith alone with 'Go and make.' Instead of compelling people to confess the gospel simply by preaching the gospel of Christ’s love (2 Corinthians 5:14), they motivate by the law in a frantic spirit by pointing out statistics of how many people die not knowing Jesus. Instead of concentrating mainly on feeding the sheep with the pure spiritual milk of the gospel, pastors see themselves as coaches who equip the saints for them to do the work of ministry. But this is more than just an error of emphasis. This market-style evangelism is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is seeking God outside of his external means. God’s external means are his Word, Sacraments, and his institutions. ... First, she makes it clear that what really drove her away was realizing that the Christian life -- at least in her experience -- was not much different than the life of a salesman."

Quietly Coming To A Town Near You... 
"Pray for our our synod, our pastors, and our leaders to uphold the integrity of our confessions. As we find ourselves in the midst of reformation week, let us be reminded that Martin Luther wasn’t trying to innovate, but instead pointed away from trivial innovations of his day. His focus was firmly set on the pure doctrine that had driven the true church throughout the centuries. Let us, in like form, discern these modern attempts at innovation and rest in our confessions which are a treasured result of the blood, sweat and tears born from the laborers of the Reformation."

Issues, Etc.: Pastor Chris Rosebrough Discusses 'Sacramental Entrepreneurs' And The FiveTwo Network

Hey FiveTwo, There's No "Me" In SacraMEnt (Well, Close Enough) 
"But then all this FiveTwo garbage comes along and kills the Biblical doctrine of vocation. Bill Woolsey states, '[Jesus'] presence in us is how the world experiences Him in real time. We're His sacraments, His life-giving reality to our families and communities.' In the words of the great Chris Carter, 'C'mon man!' This language is confusing at best (and heretical at worst) language. It makes vocation into a sacrament. But why? Is it to make us carrying out our vocations feel more important? Is it to compel people to be more vocationally minded? Or is it a tool of Satan to arouse our desire to be like God? Now I know, 'living out your vocation' doesn’t sound as cool or important as being a 'sacramental entrepreneur.' But you are not the 'life-giving reality' to anyone. By making vocation something more than it is (if that is what he is doing), Woolsey is destroying what God has made it to be. Shame on him."

The "Five Plus Two Makes Three" Network of Bad Theology 
"Books people read reflect their interests. Books people recommend reflect their worldview. Books endorsed by fellow authors reflect a clique. To test this aphorism, and as a follow-up to our previous article about influential authors and books linked with the FiveTwo Network that is hiving within the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod (LCMS), we dug into the content. And soon wished we had not. Some of the writing is just puerile poppycock, a lot of it is mystical mumbo-jumbo, but most of it is the Angel of Light feigning love for Christ’s church. There is heterodoxy, heresy and even blasphemy in many of the books currently in vogue among the church growth / missional crowd. There are common threads in all the books."

Rejected By FiveTwo: How I Failed My Sacramental Entrepreneur Aptitude Test 
"Now, I’ve spent the last month or more making phone calls, contacting fellow laity, and using social media to try and bring this to the attention of, well, everyone. You see, this organization is putting out some dangerous teaching. Dangerous, because first and foremost it’s confusing, and second it appears to directly conflict with the Lutheran confessions. Why does this matter? Well, first, when salvation is at stake, we should never be confusing. Law & Gospel. Clearly preached. If there’s ever any confusion, we should be quick to set it right with the help of Scripture. Secondly, though, this organization was co-founded by a called LC-MS pastor, Pastor Bill Woolsey, and has the support of a number of other LC-MS pastors, including district presidents. ... Now, I haven’t been an LC-MS Lutheran for very long. Not even two years now. But it doesn’t -- or, rather, it shouldn’t -- take a genius to realize what makes us Lutheran is not simply slapping that label on ourselves, but adhering and accepting our Lutheran confessions. Yet, it seems that some in our synod have forgotten that 'concord' -- that not-so-fancy word for 'unity' -- is built upon the sharing of these beliefs and confessions, not on our willingness and ability to hold hands, fake a smile, and turn a blind eye when a fellow Lutheran preaches something out of sync with those confessions."

Vanessa Was Disappointed By Her Phone Call To St. Louis 
"Her phone call raises some huge questions. What does it mean when an orthodox synod is not able to stop heterodox teaching and practice? You may tell me to be patient and wait until we fix the dispute resolution process. I am not buying that. I think it will help but it won’t solve the problem because there are other deeper problems and questions. What does it mean that for at least fifty years we have elected District Presidents in numerous districts who show little interest in rooting out heterodox teaching and practice? What does it mean when an orthodox synod president refuses to publicly speak out against heterodox teaching and practice? How hard is it for him or for District Presidents to speak and write publicly against false teaching and practice in the synod? How hard is it for seminary presidents and professors to publicly speak out and write against false teaching and practice in the synod? Is there something restraining them? You can tell me it is Matthew 18 and I will believe you for two moments -- the moment of one going to the brother and the moment of two or three going to the brother but then I will stop believing you because it never gets to the third and final moment -- tell it to the church. I will give you your two moments. I am waiting for the third moment but it never seems to come. Do we not trust Jesus when he tells us in that same passage, Matthew 18, that once the two or three gather together in his name to rebuke sin He is with us. Yes, that is what that passage means. Look it up. It is not a justification for Small Group Ministry. It is Jesus’ words of promise for President Harrison, all District Presidents and all Circuit Visitors that when their visits come to moment three He will be there to verify their action of excommunication. What does it mean when a synod develops a process/procedure for addressing heterodox teaching and practice instead of just turning to God’s word? Do we submit the inspired, inerrant, holy Word of God to a procedure? What does it mean when a pastor or layman armed with the truth of Scripture meets with his Circuit Visitor, District President, or Synodical President to rebuke false teaching and practice and is not heard? What does it mean that our so called orthodox synod refuses to accept the plain and simple words of Scripture captured in Walther’s Thesis #8 on the Church in his book Church and Ministry, adopted by the Synod in convention (as if that means anything) as pure doctrine. Walther says '...every believer must, at the peril of losing his salvation, flee all false teachers, avoid all heterodox congregations or sects and adhere to orthodox congregations and their orthodox pastors wherever such may be found.' This is not buried in the text of the book somewhere. This is one of the eight theses on the church! What does it mean that it is more likely that I, the one who raises these questions, were I to go into our synod’s procedure for resolution, would be the one to get spanked in the end for being so mean rather than the practitioners of heterodoxy? What does it mean for our synod that there are more District President’s who look down on me for raising these questions than support it and actually do something about them? Vanessa was frustrated by asking questions and so am I. Vanessa is going to keep calling. Good for Vanessa."

So incredibly frustrating (and sad) for an ex-Evangelical "Newtheran" like me who thought he found a home on the Saved By Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone, In Christ Alone Shores Proclaimed By The Confessional Lutheran Church after having sailed the Works Righteousness Waters of American Evangelicalism for the past several years.

For me, I always think about how our contemporary "Church Growthers" -- by their very own methodologies, models, and measures for success -- are forced to view Jesus' own earthly ministry as an "utter failure" since He didn't draw the kind of numbers they believe He should have (John 6:22-71). And yet, how many of them would ever admit to that publicly?

John 6:66-69 (ESV) 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Boy, how "unloving" and "un-Missional" of Jesus, huh? Couldn't He have been a little more "relevant" by speaking to them in "softer" words that they'd accept better?

Of course, I'm kidding. But this is no laughing matter either.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, and as Pastor Fisk brilliantly observed in the linked discussion above, "In the name of 'saving' the church, we 'kill' it!"

Indeed. That's why I will continue to take comfort in God's promise to us even despite the clear and present danger posed by all the false teachers who have a Degree in Wolfology operating within the walls of Christ's Church.

Matthew 16:18 (ESV) And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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